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Democracy Needs 2nd Amendment

Written By: Gary North  |  Posted: Monday, December 24th, 2012

I want to go over in considerable detail the fundamental issues of the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution: the right to keep and bear arms.

There is a great deal of emotional commitment in the United States to one of two extreme positions: (1) the right of every non-felon adult citizen of the United States to own any weapon he chooses, and (2) the right of the government of the United States to outlaw the ownership of firearms...

With the coming of the rifle in the 18th century, it became possible for independent farmers -- "peasants" -- to purchase the implements of war. These could be used for hunting. Civilians were still not part of the warrior class, but as the price of weaponry fell, beginning in the early 18th century, a shift of political power also began to take place.

Revolutionary WarIn the second half of the 18th century, the common citizen in the British colonies of North America possessed a rifle. In most cases he was a man of the countryside. He had the ability to use it. For the first time, weapons that were available to common people had equal firepower to weapons available to the central government.


So, the central government faced a crisis. The colonists in North America were in a position to resist the King's will. After 1763, resistance against the King's representatives increased, and the ability of the King to impose his will on these upstarts became more a matter of finances than technology.

The American Revolution was a revolution of common people who were armed with weapons. The long rifle, fired from a distance, was a formidable weapon. A man who could shoot straight at a distance of several hundred yards could kill an officer on horseback. Officers wore special uniforms. This enabled their troops to identify who was in charge. They rode on horseback, above the troops. There was a universal agreement among the warriors of Western Europe that they would not target the officers. This, of course, was an agreement among officers.

The Americans honored no such agreement. Americans would target the officers from hundreds of yards away. The chain of command of British troops was disrupted by the American rifle. This was considered unsportsmanlike. But the Americans did not honor the same rules and sportsmanship.

This is why the militias were the formidable opponents of the British Army. George Washington only had two major victories, Trenton in 1776 (won by surprise) and Yorktown in 1781 (won by the French Navy). His army was usually unable to make direct confrontations in the field with the British Army. In contrast, militia units, firing from a distance against massed armies, and then running into the woods, could not be dealt with by British Army tacticians. The British armies were always tied to the cities. They could not venture far into the countryside to get food, because too many of them would be gunned down by militia members. They were dependent upon the British Navy to deliver supplies to them.

It was therefore impossible for the British to win that war. For as long as the Americans would stay in decentralized units, firing from a distance into the organized troops of the British, the British could not extend military control, and therefore political control, over the Americans. The Americans kept fighting until British taxpayers grew weary of funding the war, and until the French, during one 30-day period, provided the naval support to block the British Navy from resupplying Cornwallis's Army. George Washington got the credit, as did the centralized army under his command, but it was the militia that had kept the British at bay for the previous five years.

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